SNHU 2020 and 2021 Campus Grads Cross Home Plate
Southern New Hampshire University’s Class of 2020 and 2021 campus graduates had their moment in the sun on Saturday when more than 400 celebrated their incredible achievements at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire. While it was a fraction of campus graduates – over 1,300 in 2020 and 1,100 in 2021 – those that were able to attend with family and friends were representative of the experiences and accomplishments of their classmates. And they were happy this day finally arrived.
“Today I’m just feeling super grateful that we have the opportunity to walk and celebrate our graduation,” said Joanne Coffey ’19, ’20G. That sentiment echoed throughout the day.
In his opening remarks, SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said that while everyone’s path was different, the destination and dream remain the same: to be able to say, ‘I’m a college graduate; I did it.’ He reminded graduates that this was a celebration of resilience, grit, hope and dreams as well as accomplishments. LeBlanc also spoke of those that were no longer with us – who had passed during the pandemic; a moment of silence was observed in their memory.
Class of 2020 student speaker Samantha Aguilar Hernandez, who spoke at the earlier virtual Commencement, now had the opportunity to address her peers in person. She addressed what they had experienced over the past two years, noting that with fear comes experience and the ability to face new challenges, encouraging graduates to “be proud of who you are and who you will become.”
Student speaker Katherine Pigsley, representing the Class of 2021, spoke about the accomplishments the graduates achieved, despite the pandemic, and how no one could take that away. She has learned to recognize ‘savor moments’ and emboldened graduates to recognize those moments in their lives, too.
Artist, actor, producer, and dedicated community activist Common was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service. He was also the Commencement speaker, and shared stories from his life and career. He emphasized how fitting it was the Commencement ceremony was held on a baseball field – and that graduates would be walking toward home plate.
“What is home for you? Home is a place of success for all of us,” Common said. “Success is a place we deserve.” He asked graduates to consider what success means to them now, also stressing the importance of being fully present in the moment, of recognizing what they wanted to give to the planet and how they can best serve others. He shared his appreciation of SNHU’s mission of serving people who may or may not have had the opportunity or access to education.
Before awarding degrees to the Class of 2020 and 2021, LeBlanc also announced posthumous graduate recognition to 15 members of the graduating classes. He acknowledged that there may usually be one or two – and the number this time speaks to how much trauma and pain has been experienced in the past 18 months.
Graduates were welcomed into the SNHU alumni community, more than 170,000 strong now, and invited to gather with family and friends in the stadium to enjoy celebratory fireworks in their honor.
Saturday’s Commencement was one of two special events at SNHU over the weekend. Homecoming 2021 was celebrated virtually this year, with global participants throughout the four days.
Five more Commencement ceremonies will take place at the SNHU Arena on November 5-7 to celebrate additional graduates of the Class of 2020 and 2021.
Pamme Boutselis is an adjunct, writer and senior content director in higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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